If you glance at a newsstand, you know MTV's 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom are fodder for the tabloids, but do the teen-pregnancy reality shows also make good teaching material? The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy thinks so. Considering the popularity of the show, the group believes adults who work with teens should use 16 and Pregnant as a learning tool. They've created discussion guides along with MTV and StayTeen.org to help.
According to The National Campaign's research, 82 percent of teens think the show helps them better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood, while 15 percent think it glamorizes teen pregnancy. At the sex::tech conference in San Francisco last weekend, producers of the show, as well as representatives from The National Campaign, discussed what they think are the benefits of the show, in front of a skeptical audience. MTV producer Dia Sokol Savage called herself an "inadvertent activist" against teen pregnancy, while producer Morgan J. Freeman avoided an audience question about how much the teen mom stars are paid.
Find out more about how the show is used for sex ed, when you keep reading.
The National Campaign concedes MTV creates the show for entertainment with the goal of getting good ratings. But the fact the show has reached so many teens means more are using it as a conversation starter. At the panel, a rep for The National Campaign said: "This is really relevant to the kids. This is a show they've watched on their own." Since the show already has their attention, The National Campaign believes it's a great tool for sex ed. The discussion guides they've created for educators help teens take a critical look at the show, and include an episode summary, "stuff to think about and discuss," and startling facts about teen pregnancy, as well as resources for contraception.
While this sounds like a sex ed class that would catch teens' attention, it's definitely not the only message they get from 16 and Pregnant. The "stars" of the show are now pseudo-celebrities, and it's hard not to see how the show glamorizes teen pregnancy to a degree thanks to that. That message may be more powerful than any discussion guide.